Boris Wertz has made a name for himself as one of Canada's most admired early-stage investors, but a good part of the success of his Vancouver venture capital firm Version One Ventures has had is due to his associate, Angela Tran Kingyens. Indeed, Mr. Wertz credits Ms. Tran Kingyens with finding one of Version One's most successful early-stage investments, shipping software platform Shippo. She also writes for the Version One blog and is heavily involved in the due diligence process on investments.
Now, Ms. Tran Kingyens gets to share the spotlight. On Feb. 1, the Silicon Valley-based Toronto native assumes the role of principal at Version One, which is midway through investing its $35-million second fund. That means she will,like Mr. Wertz, be leading deals and becomes one of too few women to reach the partner ranks of the male-dominated venture capital business.
"The best partnerships turn diverse perspectives into constructive discussions on how to invest and what to invest in. That's why I'm so confident that this is the right time to grow Version One and that Angela is the right person," said Mr. Wertz, whose portfolio companies, including Frank + Oak, Top Hat and Figure 1, have raised a total of more than $320-million in financing in the past three years. He credits Ms. Tran Kingyens with shaping his thinking on such topics as network effects. "We have different perspectives on many things," he said. "That's how you usually get the best investment decisions."
Like Mr. Wertz, Ms. Tran Kingyens earned a PhD (in engineering, from University of Toronto) and succeeded as an entrepreneur before finding her way to venture capital. She co-launched a Silicon Valley startup in 2012 called Insight Data Science that taught recent PhD graduates to become data scientists. The firm boasted a 100-per-cent success rate placing program participants with leading tech firms in San Francisco's Bay Area, including Google and Facebook.
Since joining Version One in August, 2013, "I've had the opportunity to learn what it means to manage an actual fund, understand the economics of venture capital in general" and worked extensively to help portfolio companies, Ms. Tran Kingyens said. "I've been very lucky to be exposed to what partners typically view at VC funds without having the official title."
Ms. Tran Kingyens refers to the gender-imbalance issue in tech and venture capital as "one of those sensitive topics, not because I don't like talking about it but because I don't know the best way to talk about it" (she's shared some of her views on the Version One blog; the firm's track record for investing in women-led ventures, which represent about 25 per cent of the portfolio, is far better than the industry average).
"It's always been a bit of a double-edged sword for me. If I feel like I stand up too much about being a woman and achieving certain things that I'm suddenly too much of a feminist, and if I don't and am not supportive, it [seems] like I don't care … I've never really thought about, 'Oh my God, I'm a minority or female,' I've just tried to let my work do the talking for itself."
Asked if Version One could expand further, Mr. Wertz said "I wouldn't exclude that" possibility, but added: "Venture is very hard to scale."